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How Jason Collins Prepared to Tell the World He's Gay

SI's Jon Wertheim talks about the preparation for Jason Collins' momentous coming out today:

J_collinsLast Wednesday Collins invited two Sports Illustrated writers to his home. With both solemnity and humor (as well as a nervous pause to make sure his backyard pool wasn't overflowing), he began crafting today's account, a public declaration that he is gay.

And Collins honored those who made his path:

Barely five minutes into a wide-ranging, hours-long conversation, Collins expressed a debt of gratitude for the other athletes, gay and straight, who helped accelerate this climate change, as it were. If he is the trailblazer, a team of others cleared the brush. Martina Navratilova, who's not only regarded as the first active athlete to come out but also did so at the peak of her career? John Amaechi, the NBA player who came out of the closet in 2007, four years after his NBA career ended? NFL players Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo, "straight allies," who became gay rights advocates, especially within the last year? "The words thank you aren't enough," says Collins.

And his hopes and fears:

Eloquent as he is in articulating why he decided to end his silence, he also expresses plenty of trepidation about what comes next. A free agent this summer, he wonders if this new status will affect his marketability. How will teammates react? Sure, he's been booed before -- "I've wanted to boo myself sometimes, he says" -- but it's never come with the sting of homophobia. He cuts off a few minutes of speculative talk by shrugging. "Look," he says. "At the end of the day I don't know what's going to happen after I open this door."

Today, though, one of the last closets in American society has been pried open. It wasn't done with a crowbar. The hinges are still intact. But it opened and Jason Collins walked out. Proudly. Head high. A smile on his face. Surely there are other active athletes, maybe lots, still inside. But the capacity is one less than it was yesterday.

And the day after he came out to SI, Collins reported that he slept well. When he woke, the sky hadn't fallen in. And damn if it wasn't blue.

And SI's Chris Stone on how the story came together: Sportsillustrated_collins

Shortly after 8 on Easter morning, Lidz, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated from 1988 to 2007, phoned me at my home. Representatives of an active NBA player, whom they did not identify, had told Lidz that their client was considering sharing, publicly, that he was gay. While no male athlete in the U.S. playing a professional team sport had ever come out, this was not entirely surprising news. The previous week had reported that efforts were afoot to pave the path for closeted NFL players to go public. Former Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo gave further voice to that possibility during the first week of April, when he said that as many as four players were in discussions about coming out as a group. On April 6, Lidz called again. The player had agreed to speak to SI on Wednesday, April 24, in Los Angeles, a week after the end of the NBA regular season.

The player's identity remained unknown to Lidz until the agreed-upon date. He, and we, knew there was a very real, understandable possibility that the player could change his mind. Lidz and SI executive editor Jon Wertheim arrived in L.A. on the night of April 23.

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  1. Right on! This took guts and balls, literally, and figuratively, and he's got both. Right on. You sir, just opened the door, NEXT????????

    Posted by: Tom | Apr 29, 2013 12:02:36 PM

  2. I am glad he has done this. I am afraid for his safety and career. Even if he is able to continue playing (doubtful) he is in great danger from the fans who likely won't accept this.

    Posted by: NullNaught | Apr 29, 2013 12:04:26 PM

  3. The change is really coming or is it here already. All the best to this handsome looking man. His smile on the cover is truly beautiful.
    @NullNaught, don't underestimate people, the world has changed, surely homophobia is there, but for majority I don't think it is a big deal.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Apr 29, 2013 12:15:43 PM

  4. Worried for his safety? If lightweight sparkly twinks can Live Out Loud in everyday life, surely a strapping pro-athlete can.....

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Apr 29, 2013 12:20:15 PM

  5. Great for him!

    I'm not a sports guy, so pardon me, but... is he a well known player?

    Posted by: marco | Apr 29, 2013 12:27:35 PM

  6. Matt26; I hope you are right. I will believe it when I see it.

    Posted by: NullNaught | Apr 29, 2013 12:30:56 PM

  7. My god, gays know nothing about sports.

    He's not only not a well known player, he's not even on a team. He's a free agent, which means he's no more an NBA player than I am.

    Technically, Robbie Rogers is a free agent as well, and he was out first. He's just not actively looking for a team to offer him a contract.

    This is all just hype. Guy has a killer smile though.

    Posted by: ripper | Apr 29, 2013 12:58:13 PM

  8. This man is 7 feet tall and 255 pounds. I am sure that he will be okay. Now, since I was drooling as I typed those stats, I am going to go wipe my mouth off.

    Posted by: THurts | Apr 29, 2013 12:58:39 PM

  9. "The hinges are still intact." That would be the closet door. I puzzled over this sentence. I guess it means all the guys still in the closet haven't had their own doors pried off and can pull the metaphorically collective door shut behind Mr Collins.

    Metaphors. They're weird.

    Anyway - I congratulate Jason Collins!

    Posted by: Glenn I | Apr 29, 2013 1:14:14 PM

  10. @ripper As I noted in the other thread, he is not a superstar and not a household name, but he has been in the league for 12 years and had a viable career, so you can;t dismiss that.

    It was probably unrealistic to expect a superstar player to be the first to come out, as great as that would have been, but this should make it easier for one to do so, assuming the reaction Jason gets is positive, as I suspect it will be.

    So to say it is "just hype" is to under-state the significance of his action, just as those who are calling it "monumental" are probably overstating the significance

    Posted by: Rick | Apr 29, 2013 1:29:40 PM

  11. Hold on everyone. Rick may seem reasonable now, but soon he will go into his whole "anti-femme, anti-woman" rant that he always posts on threads. Ignore the troll.

    Posted by: MateoM | Apr 29, 2013 1:42:15 PM

  12. P.S. Someone tell the "lightweight, sparkly twink" that the reason he can "Live Out Loud" with no consequences is because he is a nobody and therefore nobody cares what he does......unlike a pro basketball player, who is very much a part of the social mainstream and in the public eye and who has status that comes with that, so that people do care about how they behave.

    Posted by: Rick | Apr 29, 2013 1:42:25 PM

  13. Called it :) Thanks for proving me right, Rick.

    Posted by: MateoM | Apr 29, 2013 1:58:27 PM

  14. ripper, can you stop throwing gay people under the bus in ONE post of yours? It's getting too predictable and flirting with ratbastard territory, not to mention, devaluing the integrity of some of the great things you write. Step back and let go of some of your anger toward the community. Really. Let it settle.

    Posted by: Gio | Apr 29, 2013 2:02:06 PM

  15. I LOVE that he knows and respects his LGBT history! Mark of a amazing member to our community right there

    Posted by: Junior | Apr 29, 2013 2:02:38 PM

  16. Awesome news!!!

    Posted by: Mel Smith | Apr 29, 2013 2:21:30 PM

  17. Puh-leese, Gio. I'm not throwing anyone under the bus.

    Ya'll seem so desperate for this gay athlete story to reach its inevitable conclusion that you're willing to overlook facts. I'm not. I look forward to the first openly gay professional athlete playing in one of the major sports leagues. But until this guy gets picked up by a team, it ain't him. The celebrations are premature.

    Posted by: ripper | Apr 29, 2013 2:50:12 PM

  18. I think this is very significant. How many times have I heard straight males (or females) tell me I must not be good at sports or I must be good at interior design because I'm gay? Even if he is nowhere near Michael Jordan status, he is a professional athlete who played in the NBA and is helping break down sterotypes in a public way. HOORAY for that!

    Posted by: dredmond | Apr 29, 2013 3:14:55 PM

  19. @dredmond: well said and congratulations to Jason Collins

    Posted by: Kylian | Apr 29, 2013 5:09:34 PM

  20. @Ripper, that is good to know. He should be on a team very soon due to the publicity.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Apr 29, 2013 5:50:29 PM

  21. It's annoying someone who isn't even on an NBA team is stealing all of this attention away from whoever the brave person who comes out of the closet while actually actively playing in one of the four major leagues.

    Seems to me like he knew his career was over when he got dropped after one season and is exploiting his sexual orientation in hopes of getting picked up by another team, as well as for all of the money and notoriety that comes with something like this.

    Posted by: J C | Apr 29, 2013 6:34:07 PM

  22. Congratulations Jason Collins. I imagine that your future life will be even more awesome!

    Posted by: andrew | Apr 29, 2013 8:50:20 PM

  23. Glenn, I took it that he opened the door himself rather than the door being ripped open (not on his terms).

    I actually give him more credit for doing it now. I think it's a lot riskier (financially) on his end to head into free agency as an out gay player and having the uphill battle of convincing one of 30 teams to sign him, facing the "disrupt chemistry" BS and coaches/GMs/owners that hold anti-gay sentiments potentially blackballing him than it would have been to make it through free agency and come out once a contract was secured (a 7 footer with a pulse can generally find some suitors). I'm sure there's a handful of clubs that view it in a neutral or positive light, but I'd bet a larger chunk of teams probably give it some pause.

    I am sort of amazed that it garnered comments by Clintons and Obamas and major segments of the news today. I think even a year or two ago you might have prodded a noncommittal response from them. Think that's significant progress to mention too.

    Posted by: littlewoot | Apr 29, 2013 10:31:17 PM

  24. @littlewoot - so, since the door wasn't torn off its hinges, he can still use it? Or are the hinges on his to-do list?

    Posted by: Glenn I | Apr 29, 2013 11:50:27 PM

  25. Remember, these guys are performers. They will make these decisions based upon the foreseen impact to their pocketbook.

    Posted by: mike | Apr 30, 2013 2:30:33 AM

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